Skip To Content

Edible Gifts: Healthy Recipes in a Jar

The best kind of Hanukkah gifts are those you can make and your friends eat. In this series, we’ll present four sweet and savory ideas to spice up your holiday gift giving for everyone on your list.

Holiday food gifts are often sweet, rich, and calorie-laden. While the colder weather calls for comfort food, why not deliver it in the form of a steaming hot, one pot meal? Recipes in a jar — where the dry ingredients are attractively layered in a clear jar — are a fun and creative gift for a food lover. But instead of the usual cookie in a jar, this Hanukkah hit up your pantry and give the gift of homemade three-bean chili or Middle Eastern mujadara.

The premise is simple: Take your favorite grain recipe, separate out the dry ingredients, and layer them in a nice jar, then include a recipe for the recipient. Unlike baked goods or candies, these presents are shelf stable so there’s no pressure to eat them immediately and the recipient will have a hot meal at their fingertips whenever they like.

Bean chili is a perfect contestant for a recipe in a jar — you can use the recipe below, or adapt your favorite. Use any beans you like (though a mix of red kidney beans, white beans, and black beans has a nice effect) and add in a spice mix. This recipe produces a hearty and richly flavored vegan chili that would satisfy vegetarians and meat lovers alike.

For a Middle Eastern touch, mujadara, a rice and lentil dish works beautifully in a jar. All that’s needed to complete this recipe is caramelized onions. Although the rice and lentils for mujadara are often cooked separately, they can be cooked together to save time and cut down on dirty dishes. And the cinnamon stick tied to the outside of the jar makes for an extra pretty presentation.

Besides looking nice, beans, grains and legumes are a healthful antidote to holiday belly. I know after all the fried foods of Hanukkah I always crave simple and nutritious foods that are comforting enough for winter. These two recipes definitely fit the bill.

3-Bean Chili Recipe in a Jar

1 cup dried red kidney beans
1 cup dried cannellini/white beans
1 cup dried black beans
½ ounce mixed dried peppers (about 5 medium-sized dried peppers; a mix of hot and mild is ideal)
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt

To Assemble the Jar:

Pour the dried red beans into a clean, clear 32-ounce jar. Tap gently on the counter to get it in an even layer. Add the white beans, then the black beans in even layers on top, then the dried peppers. Mix the cumin, oregano, garlic powder, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl and put into a small plastic bag. Tie a knot and nestle the spice mix on top of the peppers. Close the jar.

3-Bean Chili Recipe (to include with jar)

Contents of the jar (beans, dried peppers, and spice mix)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
4 cups vegetable broth
Salt and pepper

1) Remove the spice packet and dried peppers and set aside. Pour the beans into a large bowl and cover with cold water. Soak overnight.

2) Drain the beans and set aside.

3) Add the dried chili peppers to a small saucepot over medium heat and cover with water. Simmer until the chilies are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chilies to a food processor along with ¼ cup of the cooking liquid. Blend until smooth and set aside.

4) Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and cook the onions and garlic until softened.

5) Add the contents of the spice packet and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the pureed chilies, crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth and drained, soaked beans and stir to combine.

6) Cover and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 hours, until the beans are tender. Season with salt and pepper and eat immediately or, even better, refrigerate and enjoy the next day (the flavors will only get better).

Mujadara Recipe in a Jar

1½ cups long grain white rice
½ cup green or brown lentils
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon cumin
1 cinnamon stick

To Assemble the Jar:

Pour ½ cup of the rice into a clean, clear 16-ounce jar. Tap gently on the counter to get it in an even layer. Add ¼ cup of the lentils, then ½ cup rice, ¼ cup lentils, and, finally, the remaining ½ cup of rice. Sprinkle the cinnamon and cumin on top. Close and tie the cinnamon stick, along with the recipe, around the jar.

Mujadara Recipe (to include with jar)

Contents of the jar
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 pounds white onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup white wine, vermouth or water

1) Pour the contents of the jar (rice, lentils, and spices) into a pot along with the cinnamon stick. Cover with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat until the lentils are tender, about 25 minutes. Drain, discard the cinnamon stick, and transfer the lentils and rice to a bowl. Set aside.

2) Meanwhile, melt the butter along with the oil and salt in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, 20 to 30 minutes. Add the wine, vermouth or water to deglaze the pan and bring out more flavor from the onions.

3) Add most of the onions to the lentil-rice mixture and stir to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste and top with the remaining onions. Serve warm or at room temperature. It’s delicious with a dollop of yogurt.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.